Hello! It's me again, the Coupon Geek. I hope you picked up a few coupons from the newspapers and/or printed some off the computer since last you heard from me. Hopefully by now, you have a tidy little stash of coupons and have used some of them.
To get the best bang for your buck, it is ideal to pair your coupons with a store sale. That way, you get the store savings multiplied by your coupon savings. Look at all the stores - not just the grocery stores. Check out the sales at CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens. These stores have surprisingly good sale prices.
Say you've looked at the paper and see that Ronzoni pasta is on sale, and you think you have a coupon for it. This happened just a few weeks ago with me. The pasta was on sale for 49 cents, and I had coupons for $1 off two boxes. Yep, that makes it FREE! But ... and here is where you start thinking ahead ... free pasta is as cheap as you are going to get it, so now is the time to get extra. Hopefully you will have extra coupons, and you can buy enough pasta to do your family until the next great sale. I bought 12 boxes, shared some with my parents, and had some for my stockpile.
Time for a vocabulary lesson. Stockpile: To buy enough of a product to last until the next great sale on that item. For example, buying 10 boxes of pasta for your family of four. Hoard: To buy so much of an item that you will never be able to use it all before it spoils, and it goes to waste. For example, buying 125 boxes of pasta for your family of two, and forcing your husband to watch TV while sitting on the floor because you've turned the couch into a resting place for your elbow macaroni. That is not saving you money because it is going to go to waste, and it is causing aggravation in that you now have 125 boxes of pasta sitting around taking up space.
I once did that with mustard - I bought 10 bottles, and it went to waste; there is only so much mustard you can eat, people.
And, here's another secret for you. There will always be another sale. If you wait it out, almost everything will have another tremendous sale that you can stock up on. Some people even create something called a price book where they write down the "dream" price of an item, and, when they find it at that price, they stockpile. After shopping sales and coupons for a little while, you will have probably built a stockpile where you can skip shopping one week completely.
Now, you know what makes me crazy? When you plan out a terrific shopping trip, line up your coupons, bribe your children to behave in the grocery store, drive to the store, get the buggy with the bad wheel - whatever, this shopping trip is going to be great! Then half the items you planned to buy are sold out.
Before you decide to never take my advice again and just buy stuff willy nilly, remember this important step: Ask for a raincheck. A raincheck lets you get the sale price on the product at a later date. Different stores have different policies on rainchecks. CVS gives you a raincheck that has no expiration date, but Rite Aid's rainchecks expire in a month. It never hurts to ask for one and to ask for that store's rules on rainchecks. Just remember that you can use coupons on the raincheck items when you go back and buy them.
Personally, I also ask the store if they will be getting a shipment in again that week, and, if so, if the store expects more of the sold-out product to be delivered. I have never met a manager who isn't happy to give you information that will bring you back to their store.
I can't encourage you enough to think outside the box and consider different stores. If you never look at sales papers and only shop at Store X because they promise the lowest prices, I guarantee that you are spending money that you don't have to spend. Pharmacies are places that you would expect to find good prices on make-up and shampoo, but they often have the best prices on soda, cleaning supplies and diapers. The Dollar Store and Family Dollar also accept coupons, and they have prices that can beat other stores. Just watch and compare prices and sizes.
All stores use cheap "loss leaders" - items they know they will lose money on - just to get you in the store. Because once they get you in the store for that free pasta, they hope that they can get you to buy a bunch of other items that aren't free. But you're learning to be a smarter shopper than that, aren't you? You're going to buy 10 boxes of pasta this week when it is free, not next week when it will cost you $2 a box.
Until next time, keep clipping those coupons. I'd love to hear about a great coupon trip you've had or answer any questions you may have. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org